Seminar Two - April 2024

  • 23 April 2024

Installation in Form Gallery at Whitecliffe


In 1910, my great-grandfather was among the first to be balloted land at Ngātea; this occurred after the Hauraki Plains wetlands had been denuded and drained.

For millions of years, a Kahikatea forest had grown on the swamp land of these plains, an area providing fish, birds, roots, and building materials for local Māori. 

Early European explorers in the form of Captain Cook and Joseph Banks thought that: “Swamps might doubtless easily be drained” and the newly formed Government considered the land was ‘wasted’ and could be developed into productive flat farmland.

Traditional landscape painting was used to promote New Zealand to potential settlers, but it was largely false advertising. 

Artists such as Charles Heaphy, a draughtsman for the New Zealand Company, painted New Zealand through a European lens.

I am both visually exploring and researching the land where I grew up, reaching for a deeper understanding of the impact of human development on this environment – ecologically, socially, and physically. Looking at and painting the land as it is now but seeing things differently. 

I use these field trips to the Hauraki Plains as part of my process, as I sit painting what I can see but not what I remember or what used to be there.


  • 5 x Untitled studies of bush – watercolour on A5 Khadi rag paper
  • 15 x Untitled studies of Hauraki Plains – watercolour on cartridge paper from a gifted sketchbook.
  • 6 x Untitled studies of bush & Kahikatea trees – watercolour on cartridge paper from a gifted sketchbook.
  • 3 x Untitled studies of bush & Kahikatea trees – watercolour on A5 Hahnemühle Britannia paper

Crit Notes:


Interesting, exposed paper not fully covered. What's in front of you, knowing the history of place - painting with ground revealed emphasises exposed ground, what's missing that was there before, was this conscious? Related to material usage. Assumed it was the craft of it, but also looking at something not revealed, so seen as tied together.

Traditional landscapes, are intimate. Works are gridded, feels archived e.g. Smithsonian displays. Interesting having 2 viewpoints beside each other. Reference to Checkerboard Dairyland. Categorising - response to different views, part looks like a silhouette beneath the foliage. L-R reads as honing in on landscape = love to see a full wrap-around room.

Vertical trees, horizontal land studies.

Cold reading based on Hauraki Plains - Jo draws Whenua, deeply significant. LH panels didn't easily read those. Left side - outliers. Trees from the bush in Auckland. With awareness, trees read like palisades. Richer, more vibrant trees on right attempt to circle back to what was?

Horizon describes Plains. Dutch painting in Netherlands, keeping the sea back. Control of nature to keep European way of life.
Never been there but colour grading works, melancholic? Paper and light fragments contribute to that.
Is this a lament?

What if the statement is not there? Isolated, each operates as a picture. No collage? If an image was removed from the series, it still carries a Wairua, an essence. Aerial perspective adds to the meaning of the loss of land, like a view out of a train. You got what you wanted in the greyness of some of the works. Offsets the 'baggage'.

Separated works - does it matter how the viewer reacts to the story?

Question - how do we get the story across?

Because of scale more like studies, quick moments, but the grid does something else. Could the grid be considered a work? Move off the grid for the next crit?

Chequerboard of farmland - are the locations seperate? Feels like a narrative, special grid - feels like separate properties, then trees also in grid. Why are trees in a grid? Makes sense for the land.

Trees are figurative. Response to reading in melancholic way. Feels like a gallery of memorablia.

Not a provocation to dial it up, but be conscious of very strong history of both land and painting, so has the baggage of past histories. 

Interesting - is there a space to enjoy the beauty, sumptouness of the paint?

Not square format this time, hovers between square and landscape.


Studies only, nothing completed.

Big questions in the statement, I think it is good to tackle some of these big questions, as settlers we need to actively figure these things out.

Why are they unfinished? - Trying to explore where I can take them. Painting as it is now.

How are the themes present in the landcsapes? Jo is very intrested in the problem.

Watercolour seems very deliberate.

There is some great thinking and great painting but its not quite connecting, not quite sticking the knife in.

The horizons are intresting and a direction you would like to work on. Horizons - how do you subvert it?

Chris Perkins motifs.

Urgent conversations. How do you deal with landscapes?

Who previously owned the land. Many iwi, I know the history of one of them Ngata Paoa, and also a bit Ngati Maru, but there were many surrounding the Plains and using as a food basket. Maybe do more research about the previous owners if possible. Museum library.

The scale is not helping you. Trees are massive so you should embrace the scale.

As a white person, I don't want to be let of the hook.

Postcard size marketing.

Bigger paintbrush.

How can you stop me from enjoying it? Text to accompany it, bold lettering, advertising about NZ.

Its contentious problematic content, brave to deal with it.

Interesting and difficult critique.

Juxatopositon with giant trees, with the small paintings - start of something?

Watch the fild The Convert.

Difficult content but we all encourage you, good stuff! Very brave rich content.

Such great texture in your work, skilled hand. Keep using your watercolour practice.

Pakeha guilt, important work. Scary conversation, but shouldn't be.

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